Performance Appraisals: How to Use Year-End Appraisals to Achieve Outstanding Results

by Denny Strigl

I will never forget the first appraisal I received as a manager.

My first year’s experience managing a small group of people was pretty typical to many managers’ first year.  I was apprehensive: worried about what the people who worked for me thought of me as a boss and concerned about whether my performance was meeting my boss’ expectations.  Throughout the year I never got much feedback from my boss.  He was a man of very few words. From time to time he would tell me something he wanted me to do, but never told me whether he was satisfied with what I did, or how I did it.

Our company had a policy which required managers to appraise the performance of each person who worked for them at the end of every year.  As the end of my first year as a manager approached, I was anxious for my boss to tell me how I was doing and in particular the areas of my performance in which I needed to improve.  When I hadn’t heard a word from my boss with just a couple days of the year remaining, I called him and asked if we could meet for a few minutes to talk about my performance appraisal.  He said he would be happy to give me my appraisal and would stop by my office at the end of the day.  True to his word at about 5 o’clock that day he showed up at my office with his coat on and told me to walk with him to the parking lot and he would give me my performance appraisal on the way.  (I thought it was a strange way to appraise a managers performance, but I didn’t feel I had the option to complain.)  I remember what he said as if it were just yesterday that he said it.  He said, “You are doing a pretty good job.  That’s it.  And by the way if anybody from HR asks if I gave you an appraisal, tell them I did.”  With that he got into his car and drove away.

It is ironic that often in our working careers we learn as much from the bad bosses we work for than we do from the good ones.  What we learn from the bad bosses is what not to do!

So as we approach the end of 2011 I would like to say a few words about how to appraise employees who work for you.

As discussed in Chapter 6 of Managers, Can You Hear Me Now?, I suggest a performance appraisal is a written document that should include no more than three clear and concise paragraphs on the following topics:

  1. The goals the employee has met or exceeded
  2. The goals the employee has not met
  3. The manager’s recommendations concerning what the employee should do to meet his or her goals

None of these topics should come as a surprise to the employee if the manager has been doing his or her job communicating throughout the year.

A few more tips:

  • The most effective appraisals are directly related to performance agreements prepared, discussed and tracked with employees throughout the year
  • The manager should write the appraisal.  Managers should not ask employees to write their own appraisals.
  • In writing the appraisal mangers should not “cut and paste” the exact words or phrases from the appraisals prepared for other employees.
  • Finally, managers should set aside enough time to sit down with each of their employees and thoroughly discuss the appraisal.

Bottom Line: Many managers consider performance appraisals to be little more than a bureaucratic requirement of the human resources department.  The best managers I’ve worked with consider performance appraisals a critical tool to developing their employees, enhancing their accountability and helping them to achieve outstanding results.

Related Posts:

The Key to Being An Approachable Manager

Expecting the Most Out of People and Getting It….Most of the Time

Eight Tips to Survive and Thrive in Companies Large and Small

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